During the past five years and throughout what has been a difficult time financially for many businesses, more and more entrepreneurs, small businesses and medium sized companies have realized that active networking is absolutely essential to business growth, particularly for start-ups and small businesses which may not have a large advertising budget, or a long list of contacts they can reach out to or rely on to spread the word about themselves or their company and the type of services or products they offer. Love it or hate it, networking for business is here to stay and it is fast-becoming a big part of the overall strategic plan for our business now and in the future.
While many people still prefer to stay away from networking events citing reasons such as “It’s a waste of time”, “No one ever gets me any business” or “All I’m doing is selling to other people who are trying to sell to me, it’s a pointless exercise”, the majority of us are realizing the enormous benefits to networking their website. When done properly, networking is an invaluable tool in helping us to meet others, grow our business and our network of contacts and also helping others to grow their business in the process.
While I am a big fan of social media marketing and using the power of social networking to attract new clients and customers through sites such as Linked In, Facebook, Twitter, Google + and Pinterest, for the purposes of this article I am going to focus specifically on B2B networking and how you can use this form of networking to grow your business and reach potential customers and clients you may never have met otherwise.
During the past few years in particular, there has been a shift in the way people are buying and who they are buying from. The “hard sell” no longer works quite as well as it did in the past and people are now buying from people they know and trust. It is true of course that we also buy from big, well-known brands, but the reason we buy from these companies is the same as the reason we are buying more and more from people we know – because we trust them. The difficulty facing many smaller businesses is that our advertising budgets don’t quite stretch to the same size as those of bigger brands, so we must engage and interact with people as much as possible through networking to promote ourselves and our brand and gain maximum exposure. By circulating and meeting others on a regular basis, we build up trust and relationships with others. This is a valuable way to attract new business and it is, without doubt, the simplest way by a clear mile.
“Word of Mouth” has, for a long time, been the easiest and most cost-effective way for any company to attract new clients. No big advertising fees, no sales calls, no direct marketing, no “hard sell” – just the good, old-fashioned way of passing on of information, recommendations and referrals from one person to another.
Many businesses today utilize in-depth marketing plans which contain many of the tools and strategies we need for our business to succeed – social media marketing, content marketing, direct marketing and inbound marketing are just some of the buzzwords and phrases we have become familiar with in recent years, but many of us have realized that while these marketing strategies are essential and have their place in our business plan, we must not forget the value of “Word of Mouth” marketing and the opportunities that networking can bring.